Chapter 29 : The Other Boyfriend
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Chapter 29: The Other Boyfriend
The day of the Gryffindor/Slytherin game, something within me changed a little bit. It solidified in my mind that there was nothing that would keep me from joining my team on the pitch for our next two games—nothing.
That was two weeks ago.
I stared out the library window, pushing my face further toward it, smelling the cold chill of the outside world.
“Miss Colton,” Madam Pince chirped from the down the row of shelves. “Close that window, the books will turn to soggy ice if they feel the cold.”
I nodded to her, unhappily yanking the window closed. There was only about a week and a half left of November, and I was determined to make every second of it last. The past week, I had spent more than my share of study hours sitting outside under a heavy wool cloak, flipping pages of my textbooks with fingers numb from the cold.
It was nearly three already, which meant I should have been heading down to Care of Magical Creatures, but I spent my three hour break after Charms looking up the various creatures Kettleburn had hinted might be in our “adventure-course”—basically an obstacle course involving various tasks to test our skills with magical creatures—today. And after about ten minutes of that, I spent that rest of the time bouncing back and forth from staring out the window to reading various Quidditch strategy books from the past decade.
I gathered my things, plopping the pile of strategy books onto the re-shelf chart which, because it was charmed to reshelf everything the second the bindings touched its metal, immediately levitated my pile in the direction of the Magical Sports section of the library. Slinging my bag over my cloaked shoulder, I headed off toward the exit to the grounds. Along the way, I bumped into my very handsome boyfriend, who had mentioned he would try to find me before class.
“Hey,” he greeted with a smile before pressing his plush lips against mine.
I reveled in the feeling for moment, before Sirius pulled away, wrapping his arms around my waist. “Hey,” I replied, grinning at him.
“Enjoy your time with your other boyfriend?” He teased, tapping my nose with his finger and pointing back in the direction of the library.
“Oh, yes!” I joked in return. “He taught me all kinds of new things. Like Bludger backbeats, blurting, and formation looping,” I listed, wiggling my eyebrows and making them sound as sexual as possible.
Sirius cocked an eyebrow, a smirk playing at his lips. He moved his face closer to mine, lowering his voice to a husky whisper. “Well, I do hope you’ve saved some formation looping for me.”
He bit my bottom lip playfully and I batted him away, laughing so hard that I couldn’t keep a straight face anymore.
“Alright, enough of that,” I told him, trying to keep my voice stern. “You ready for this adventure-course?” Sirius gave me a blank look. “Seriously? And we’ve known about this for how many days now?”
Sirius shrugged, grabbing the back of my cloak and pulling me into his side, nuzzling me. “I have more important things to worry about than some silly adventure.”
I rolled my eyes. “Sure you do. Like your marks in class. Our N.E.W.T.s aren’t all that far away…”
“Serena, stop being such a Ravenclaw,” he begged, exasperated. “N.E.W.T.s. are literally a year and a half away.”
“Yes,” I continued, rattling off information like he was a child and I needed to explain a particularly tricky muggle math problem to him. “However, you need to keep in mind that the things we are learning right now will be on the N.E.W.T.s next year, and those exam marks will determine what you do for the rest of your life! It is literally your future we’re talking about. You need to be prepared and think ahead or—“
“Or I’ll just wing-it when the time comes,” he replied with a flourishing smile. His teeth seemed to sparkle at me like the full-moon, and I found myself looking away, a faint rose-color seeping upward from my neck and onto my cheeks. No, I chastised myself. Stop thinking about that. The full-moon isn’t until Sunday. Pay attention to Sirius and stop getting side-tracked!
I looked back up at him. “You can’t just wing the rest of your life, Sirius,” I told him, trying to focus my attention back onto the conversation at hand.
The conversation stalled, silence wrapping around us for a moment before I realized there were voices coming from a few meters away. In all the N.E.W.T. confusion, I had hardly registered that we were already out on the grounds for Care of Magical Creatures. Kettleburn was kneeling down, trousers sloshing in the mud, putting the finishing touches on a cage holding a particularly nasty-looking Jarvey—an oversized-ferret prone to insulting anyone close to it. I listened for a moment, noting that it was sputtering off a rude string of curses at both Kettleburn and James, who happened to be standing beside him, holding a spool of wire for the professor.
Sirius leaned over, placing a warm kiss on my chilled cheek. “It will all work out,” he told me, his breath hot against my face. “Trust me.”
Sirius left my side, going to say hi to his mates, and he was immediately replaced by Remus. He rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet for a moment before speaking.
“That looked serious,” he finally said.
“Yes, that was Sirius,” I joked, flashing him a smile.
Remus chuckled, looking down at the ground in a way that said he had heard that joke a million times before—and often the way I used it: avoiding the subject. I looked at him for a moment longer, before turning away.
“Yeah, we were talking about the future,” I told him, backtracking.
Remus turned to look at me, his eyebrows knit into a tight mousy-brown line. “The future? That’s a bit ominous when it comes to him. You sure you want to start walking down that line so soon?”
I shook my head, smiling slightly. “Not our future, Remus. Merlin… That’d be quite the conversation.” I chuckled to myself, my mind fleeting back to the full-moon. “No, we were talking about the N.E.W.T.s. It’s only a year away, and yet he talks about it like it doesn’t really matter.”
Remus exhaled, whistling through his front teeth. “That is also quite the task you have taken upon yourself. If you can talk some sense into him, I applaud you. But I’ve been trying to do the same thing myself for years and it never seems to change. He doesn’t like thinking about the future.” He paused, regarding Sirius for a moment. “It’s not really my place to speculate, I suppose, but I personally think it has to do with his family.”
“What do you mean?” I asked him, my brow furrowing. It wasn’t like Remus to talk about other people’s pasts, or anything particularly personal that wasn’t his information to share, but I couldn’t stop myself from being utterly intrigued.
He hesitated, realizing he had said too much already. He paused for a moment, wondering if it was alright to continue or not. “I mean… they’re not exactly close,” he stated slowly, trying to pick the right words to describe a lifetime of information. Remus paused again, biting the inside of my lip as he considered how to explain his thoughts. “I suppose he wasn’t really brought up in a household that talked about anything other than the future his parents envisioned for him. It’s hard to think about your own future when those plans don’t match up perfectly”—he sighed—“or even at all.”
I looked back toward Sirius, who looked over and smiled.
“It must be difficult for him,” I replied with a frown. “I can’t really imagine what it must be like to grow up with parents who had that strict of…rules, I suppose. My parents always told me that what I wanted for myself was what they wanted for me as well.”
Remus regarded me with a shrug. “Sometimes when we are unsure about the future, it’s easier not to think about it at all.”
My mind immediately wandered back to the full-moon. It had been six years since that werewolf bit me and my entire life changed, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it for more than two days before it was brought back up in my mind—what did that say about me? Maybe it was something along the lines of an obsession, but that doesn’t quite make sense. It was only natural that it seemed to steer my life…Right?
“I definitely understand that sentiment,” I said finally.
After classes for the day, I broke apart from the group and headed up to Dumbledore’s office. James had subtly asked if I wanted him to accompany me, but with a quick shake of my head, I dismissed his offer and let him know I wanted to do this myself. I made my way up into his office, and went to knock on the door, but it opened before my knuckles could make contact.
Dumbledore stood in front of me, sweeping the door open with a smile.
“Miss Colton,” he greeted me. “I wondered when I would be seeing you again.”
I bowed my head slightly, following him into his office, securing the door behind me. “I should have come sooner, I suppose,” I resigned. “But with Quidditch and classes…”
“No need to apologize,” Dumbledore said with a smile. “Your time has been otherwise occupied. As Headmaster, I know that sentiment well,” he told me with a chuckle. “It seems my mind is always running off in a dozen different directions at any one time. Usually more!”—he sat down at his desk and motioned for me to sit across from him—“Come, sit.”
I did as he said, gingerly lowering myself into the chair that sat in front of his desk. I felt so small sitting there, like I was being punished by a parent for something silly that I had done, like licking my finger and shoving it in an electrical outlet. Dumbledore must have noticed my nervousness, because he motioned to a small dish filled to the brim with spherical chocolates of varying sizes at the edge of his desk.
“Help yourself, please.”
I leaned forward, taking a handful of the sweets in my hand. I plucked a single sphere out of the middle of my palm, popping it into my mouth. I chewed slowly, then swallowed; immediately beginning to feel at ease.
Headmaster Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers in front of his chest. “I have no doubt you came in search of the Wolfsbane potion that I promised you,” he began, his mouth still formed in a smile as he spoke, though it was barely noticeable. “However, we do still have a few matters to discuss as of yet. I was filled in to the details of your last full-moon encounter quite sparsely from Professor McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey. Mr. Potter was, as you were, preoccupied and therefore has not yet explained the manner in which he returned your collision of minds to its proper and rightful state.”
He spoke in technical terms, as though I had gone through some serious medical testing for a disease that often came through hospital doors. There was a lightness in his tone, like a doctor might use with a child whilst explaining to them complications that may arise from a new drug on the market. It was unsettling and calming all at the same time.
“Perhaps,” he continued, leaning forward ever-so slightly. “You could fill me in to the details yourself? If it is not too much trouble, of course.”
His manner of speaking seemed to allude to a choice I had to make, though his posture and, of course, position at Hogwarts gave way to the unwavering fact that I had not a choice to make at all. If he asked, I must tell.
“He talked me down, sir.” I told him, keeping my gaze steady with his as I chewed on another chocolate. I could feel my face growing pale with unease as my mind danced around the memory of the past full-moon. In all truthfulness, I had no desire to rehash the events that transpired, but I also knew that I truly had no say in whether or not this conversation took place. Also, I realized that telling Dumbledore shouldn’t have felt so daunting when it meant that I would be protecting myself from any other future collisions of mind.
“He talked you down?” he repeated.
“Yes, Headmaster,” I nodded. “He mentioned major events in my life and reminded me of the people I love.” I could feel myself closing down, so I popped another chocolate in my mouth.
“Such as?” he prompted, waving a hand at his side comfortingly. “There is no reason to be scared, child.”
I paused for a moment, looking downward. I scrutinized the woodworking of his desk, briefly wondering where he had picked up such a piece of exquisite furniture. “He talked about Tyler…and his death. Uh,” I stumbled, trying to keep words flowing from my lips. “He talked about Quidditch. He mentioned my parents, briefly. And Sirius. He, uh,”—I looked down at my lap, twisting my fingers together—“told me I was ‘giving up’ to the beast inside of me.”
Dumbledore stayed silent, watching me carefully as I spoke. “And it was his words that pulled you back?”
Dumbledore nodded. “I may have to speak with you further on this subject, but…” He trailed off for a moment, replacing his frown with a smile. “I see that is a conversation for yet another time, Miss Colton.”
He pushed out his chair, standing up and making his way over to a small mahogany chest sitting atop a large set of drawers to the right of his desk. He tapped his wand to the middle of the chest and the doors flew open, revealing two violet-tinted, corked vials. He selected one of them, and then flicked his wand to secure the chest once more. Dumbledore moved back to where I was sitting, and I climbed to my feet at once, nervous with excitement.
“Drink this the morning of, around sunrise,” he instructed. “And not a moment before.”
I took the vial from his hands. “Thank you, Headmaster.” An unsure smile crept onto my lips as I stared at the violet draught. It seemed so unlikely that such a small liquid could tame what I had been struggling with for years.
“And Miss Colton,” the Headmaster called when I had turned to leave his office. “Take care to stay out of direct moonlight. The potion will not protect you if the moon directly hits you—I dare say that nothing has yet been discovered to help in that respect.”
I nodded in response. “Thank you, Headmaster. I’m truly grateful.”
Dumbledore smiled, toothless but genuine. “I keep my students safe, Miss Colton. I promise you that while you reside within my walls, you shall have my protection.”
His meaning seemed to linger so much heavier than the words themselves should have, but I took it with a grain of salt. The Headmaster often seemed to find deeper meaning in things that most people would shrug off as circumstance and that day was no exception.
“And Miss Colton,” Dumbledore called to me once more when I had my hand perched on the doorknob. “See to it that Mr. Potter finds his way here when he gets a moment.”
“Yes, Headmaster. Of course.”
When I made my way to the Great Hall for dinner, everyone was already there. My eyes scanned the Gryffindor table, looking for an empty spot to sit. The only open seat was in between James and Casper, across from the rest of the Marauder’s. I made my way toward them, plopping down, bumping into both of my neighbors as I threw my legs over the bench.
“Hey babe,” Sirius said from across the table.
“Hey, Serena,” Remus greeted me, flashing a timid smile. “We were wondering when you might show up.”
“Yeah,” Casper agreed. “Especially since we all know you can’t live without food every couple hours.” He nudged me with his elbow, giving me the same toothless smile that always made me feel right at home.
I elbowed him back. “I had a meeting,” I answered. I reached forward, piling my plate high with slices of roast turkey and steamed carrots. I dug in, dropping an entire forkful of carrots onto my lap. I swiped them off my skirt and onto the floor as my table-mates began to laugh. “Ha, ha.” Unamused, I rolled my eyes at them.
“Quite the meeting, huh?” James chuckled, eyeing the small pink blush creeping onto my cheeks.
I gave him a pointed look. “My clumsiness has nothing to do with my meeting, James. There’s nothing in the world that could make me drop carrots into my lap except for my complete and utter lack of manners, skill, or charm.”
The table chuckled again. Casper elbowed me. “Hey, that’s not fair. The Colton’s have long been famous for their skills and charm.”
I raised an eyebrow at him in amusement. “Oh yeah? And what Colton’s have you been around lately, exactly? I think you are confusing us for your own family.”
Casper punched my shoulder playfully. “Ha, ha.”
I grinned back at him and heard Sirius clearing his throat from across the table.
“Anyway,” he began. “The Hufflepuff Ravenclaw game is coming up.”
Smooth transition, I thought with a chuckle. “Yeah, a week from tomorrow, right?” I asked, looking around at the boys.
“Yeah,” James answered with a nod. He shoved a fork-full of turkey into his mouth, chewing quickly and swallowing. “I expect you all there to do a little recon.”
“Recon?” Remus snorted. “You can’t be serious.”
“Oh, I am deadly serious,” James replied, raising his eyebrows. “We need to see where the talent lies this year.”
“Don’t you already know that? Phillipa has been trying to bring you down for years,” he pointed out, nodding over to the mess of blonde hair sitting at the head of the Ravenclaw table. “And she’s got Edmund as a Chaser, too.”
James scowled into his food. “Don’t even get me started on Edmund…”
I ignored James’s comment and answered Remus’s original question. “That’s true,” I concurred. “But with finals just a month away, the Ravenclaw’s will be just getting into the swing of studying and worrying less about Quidditch. Plus…” I glanced at the Hufflepuff table. “Hufflepuff has the younger Angoli brother.”
“He’s only a fifth year, isn’t he?” Peter piped up.
“Yes, but he’s a brilliant Chaser.” I picked up my fork again, digging back into my dinner.
“He’s got the arm of an ox, that one,” Sirius concluded with a sigh. “He’s definitely one to watch. He could quite possibly carry their entire team on his back if he put his mind to it.”
“And their captain…” I paused, trying to remember his name. “Sean,” I continued. “He may have the brain of a rugby player, but he has the strength of one too. He’s not just going to just roll over and throw the game to Ravenclaw if he sees the opportunity to really overtake them.”
“Well…” Remus said after a moment. “It seems as though you lot really have your work cut out for you this season. Maybe beating Slytherin wasn’t as big of an achievement as you thought it was.”
“Speaking of the Slytherin game…” Casper began, but he was cut off by Sirius calling out to Sean, who had just walked past our table.
“Lewis!” he called. “Wait up!” He grabbed his books, flashing all of us a wink before jogging to catch up to the Hufflepuff Quidditch captain.
Casper stayed quiet, seemingly fine with the fact that his comment wouldn’t be heard. He grabbed a dish of beans, scooping out a generous helping onto his empty plate before selecting a buttered roll to accompany it.
I turned to James, cutting my turkey slice into a dozen bite-sized rectangles. “Dumbledore wants to see you in his office,” I told him.
“Oh yeah?” James responded, keeping his voice level even though he knew what it must have pertained to; especially if I was the one passing along the message. “Any time in particular?”
I shook my head. “At your earliest convenience,” I said, passing along the message.
Casper shot me a look out of the corner of his eye, but stayed silent. I wondered if he was curious why I was the one giving James this information, and why I would have been around Dumbledore in the first place, but if he had any questions about the situation, he didn’t voice them.
“What do you mean you have to ‘stay with’ me?”
It was the middle of the next day, Saturday, when James finally had the time to meet up with Dumbledore and find out what he wanted. However, this meant that by the time he had a chance to debrief me on what Dumbledore said to him, Quidditch practice was about to begin.
Since I had cleared up the first-string issue with James a few weeks back, I had been put on a probationary period of two months (which was fine since our game against Hufflepuff wasn’t until February), which was set to wrap-up when we left school for the holidays. As such, I had to be on the top of my game during practices, or the Keeper spot would officially turn over to Orion for the rest of the season with no chance of me playing in any of our other games unless something unfortunate happened to Orion—and I wasn’t in the business of wishing ill-fates on my teammate…even though he probably often wished them on me. Personally, I wasn’t sure Orion should have been a Gryffindor; he had a much more Slytherin-demeanor.
The rest of the team was out on the pitch, and James and I were huddled in the strategy room speaking in hushed, but heated, tones as he filled me in. And I was not in the best of moods once I heard what he had to say; which wasn’t exactly the best thing considering that I needed to go play Quidditch with a level head afterward.
James shrugged. “He said I have to stay with you tomorrow to make sure you don’t transform. It’s just a precautionary thing, he’s worried about you--”
“The person that should be ‘worried’ is you,” I said harshly, cutting him off. I paused for a moment then said bluntly, “I don’t want you there.”
James frowned, one of his eyes ticking angrily. “Do you think I want to be there? I have much better things to do with my time than to just sit around with you all night—”
I scoffed at him, pressing up against my canines with my tongue. “Yeah, yeah. Like you really have anything better to do.”
“Then what’s the problem?” James bit back. He raised his eyebrows, staring at me pointedly with his arms over his chest. “Why don’t you want me there?”
I was at a loss for words. Why was he putting up such a fight about the entire thing? It wasn’t like I even needed him there now that I had the Wolfsbane potion.
“I’ve been changing fine by myself for years, James,” I finally said after a long pause. I shrugged, folding my arms over my chest protectively. “I just don’t see why Dumbledore thinks I need a babysitter.”
James scoffed, unbelievably, and threw his hands up in the air. “Seriously? Don’t you remember last month?”
I frowned. “Of course I remember.”
James frowned, stepping closer. “Listen, I’m sorry about everything I said. I told you that already; it wasn’t anything personal, I just had to—”
“I know,” I stopped him with a flick of my hand. “You said that already. You had to.”
James paused, his eyes searching my face. “Is that why you don’t want me there?”
I stayed quiet, unsure of what to say. If I said no, he would think that I was lying. If I said yes, he would just continue to talk about the entire thing. Neither option seemed all that tempting since it would all result in the same conclusion—a prolonged conversation that I didn’t necessarily want to deal with after having to explain everything to Dumbledore the evening prior.
“Serena,” he began again. “It’s just as a precaution, alright? Your body may reject the potion; we can’t be certain of what will happen. It will be safer for you if someone was there to make sure things are going the way they should.”
“So why doesn’t Dumbledore just watch me himself?” I asked after a moment.
“I’m sure he has a lot of things to attend to, Serena. He is Headmaster, after all.” James sighed.
I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as my mind whirred. “What about Madam Pomfrey?”
James made a face. “She doesn’t know any more about werewolves than a Hufflepuff does.” He frowned at me. “Listen, if tomorrow night goes by fine, you’ll never have to spend another full-moon with me again. If you can’t get behind this for any other reason, at least take heart in that.”
I thought for a moment and then looked up at him. “Fine.”
“Fine?” he asked, unsure.
“Fine,” I repeated.
James stepped forward again, his brow furrowed. “Is the idea of spending time near me really all that repulsive?” he asked. His voice was low, but there was so much meaning behind his words that it felt like he was shouting. I flinched involuntarily and James took a step back. “I suppose that’s a fine enough answer to my question.”
I frowned, flustered. I took a step forward, reaching out to touch his arm. “James, I—”
He didn’t pull away, but he didn’t move at all. It was like he turned into a statue, his eyes following my hand as I touched the side of his arm. I felt like I had been shocked, and I pulled my hand back. His eyes slowly moved from my hand up to my face.
“One more night, Serena. Then you won’t need to worry about me.” His voice stayed steady, in a haunting way that signaled the end of something.
At that moment, I was still unsure of what that end was, or if it really was an end. I was angry with him for everything he said during the past full-moon, and I was wary around him because, irrationally, I linked feeling of being around him to the memory of losing my mind to the beast, but that didn’t mean I hated him. I just didn’t know how to be near him without feeling like I was going to lose myself to the wolf again. I was scared.
And now I was scared that I was going to lose something much more precious.
A/N: Shout-out to a sassy friend of mine, Sami, of whom I just found out has been reading this story for quite some time now... It's a weird day when you find out someone you know personally reads your fan fiction... ;P
And a huge thank-you to everyone who's still reading! It's taken me longer than usual to get this chapter out, but I tried my best to get it together in time for the Holidays. So Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope to get at least one more chapter up before I have to head back off to school. :) -KBD
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